Flying the CRJ (or any other plane) in VR without touching the mouse (AAO, Behringer X-Touch Mini, Novation Launchpad Mini Mk II) ca. $150

If you would like to spend ca. $150 to fly CRJ (or any other plane) in VR without touching the mouse consider using as input devices:

  • Behringer X-Touch Mini as the autoplot panel + EICAS panel (8 encoders with pushbuttons, 16 buttons, one slider) - available used for ca. $40-60

  • Novation Launchpad Mini Mk II - as the FMS panel (64 main square buttons, exactly as CRJ FMS + 16 round buttons, 12 of which can be assigned as FMS line select keys) - available used for ca. $40-50
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  • Axis and Ohs S/W which allows using MIDI devices as sim input - $23.50

For operating these devices in blind in VR consider some tactile aid on the buttons like the labels from Dymo Embossing Label maker (ca. $15) - however, due to the translucent material of which the buttons are made, the labels don’t stick to the buttons as well as I would desire.
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Some great hardware ideas there, and I like the price!
Looking at the Behringer X-Touch Mini, I think those rotary controls are potentiometers not rotary encoders (based on the website info), which may make them less useful in MSFS.
Also, does it behave as a gameport HID device in windows, or some MIDI related thing?

They are rotary encoders, turn infinite in each direction. Each also acting as pushbutton.
Both devices are MIDI, some S/W required to translate MIDI IN to simulator events, like Axis and Ohs.
For non-VR flying it is aslo possible to control the button backlighting from the sim, to reflect the current state of the controlled function; but for VR this is not needed, as you can’t see these devices when wearing VR headset.

Seriously, there shouldn’t be a single MSFS user without Behringer X-Touch Mini. It’s so useful and so cheap for what it offers, it’s quite ridiculous. I bought one a year after owning the game and I now wonder why I haven’t already bought a second one (but I will in the next few weeks).

Obviously it can’t be used on its own and you need software like AAOs or spad.next to make good use of it, the latter priced over 90 euros to get the necessary MIDI support, plus you have to pay extra to receive updates after the 1st year. But it’s still worth it, because software such as the above is also used to control other hardware (Honeycomb etc) so it’s a great investment.

Plus it’s not that hard to program. Using spad.next and starting from scratch, I had the following profile for WT CJ4 within a couple of hours:

Flying PA28R Arrow with Behringer is a joy, as it allows me to have control of all systems (GNS530 included, without having to use the mouse at all).

With a little imagination you can do all sort of amazing stuff, because even the knobs are clickable and support short and long clicks. I’ve started experimenting with scenarios such as “short click knob X to toggle a custom variable and then based on its value, have the knob do different things, e.g control panel vs dome lighting, select FLC vs VS speeds” and so on. Hence the need for an additional Behringer to decouple some of these functions.

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Wow I didn’t’ know that, that’ll be very useful. I’ll give it a try today to see how it works.

For AAO it is described in the AAO manual. The general approach might be also applicable to SPAD. You will also need X-Touch Editor to change the default behaviour of the LEDs, to let them respond to MIDI OUT messages.
I don’t have any practical experience with controlling the LEDs, as I can’t see them when flying in VR.

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I have my Behringer X-Touch Mini on top of the Bravo quadrant, also designed and 3d printed some knobs to be easier to find GNS 430/530 like. I used Spad.next and it is trully amazing.

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fully agree

I know what you mean

But still I just had to laugh heartily. In music circles we always say that there shouldn’t be anyone who is forced to use anything from Behringer. :joy:
Old running gag, due to the earlier quality problems.

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While Behringer X-Touch mini is already well known and discussed on this forum, as great autopitolot panel due to the 8 encoders, I would also like to bring your attention to the Novation Launchpad Mini which offers 64 square buttons (exactly the number on the CRJ FMS) plus 16 round buttons, 12 of which work very well as the FMS line select keys. No longer mouse needed to enter your flight plan or operate the FMS in flight. Easily available used for 40-50 bucks.
And it doesn’t come from Behringer :wink:
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Wasn’t aware of the Novation launchpad TBH but it seems a pretty decent solution. Obviously the “used” part doesn’t apply everywhere, as where I am I can only get a new one for about 95 euros or so. Still a bargain for what it offers.

Frankly I would have already ordered one already had I found an easy enough and adjustable solution to somehow label these keys (like it can be done with programmable USB keyboards such as ExpertKeys), because having 64 buttons without a straightforward way to know which does what is obviously a no-go.

Will search through different labeling proposals…

edit: Midiplus Midi Controller SmartPAD seems to be another option (although harder to find) and as a bonus it has knobs (no idea if they’re rotary or not) and separate buttons on either side which can be used as LSKs in MCDUs.

To be verified if these side keys actually send MIDI commands, or somehow only control the pad settings.
In Novation Launchpad the 16 round side keys actually send MIDI commands. I placed it on the extended drawer of my desk, to the right to my chair, more or less like in the actual plane. This way the top row of the round buttons, while placed horizontally, is actually facing me as kind on vertical column, still usable as left column of line select keys. The other row of round keys, truly vertical, acts as right column of line select keys.

To allow VR flying, I’m going to 3D print a set of 3mm-high frames dividing the button area into sections, like in CRJ unit - functions, digits, letters, LSKs, for tactile reference.

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Great idea. As an alternative you can even build your own controllers running on free MobiFlight software on an arduino, for just a few bucks of parts from Ali express. Only your fantsy and a number of available pins on Arduino Mega is the limit. Actually, the largest limit is what you can remember and find easily by touch.

I built my VR control box with 6 DIY dual encoders (3D printing + cheap single encoders) and 8 buttons and 3-position bank switch. This places all radio tuning, autopilot functions, and virtually all GNS530 functions at my fingertips, operating very close to real live. Most knobs have unique shapes and are easy to identify by touch.

I then built an extension box just few days ago, with switches to control all lights, master battery etc., and a realistic gear lever (pull, slide, lock)

I will post my whole build soon (there’s much more: a whole home-built motion platform which I already My DIY 2DOF Motion Platform for MSFS - adding a whole new immersion level to VR, on a budget - VIDEO), custom-made 8-axis Boeing style throttle quadrant with analog reversers etc., custom pendular yoke and joystik rig built with hall sensors, and 5-axis left-hand HOTAS-style throttle that can transform to a helicopter collective control, with a panel of switches and pots.

Here’s the encoder box with an extention box. Dual encoders are way cooler than single encoders. And with Mobiflight you can mimic precisely how they are supposed to work and do quite complicated arrangements. For example, top let knob does COM1 radio frequency, kHz on the inner knob, Mhz on the outer knob (exacly like a real one), button next to the encoder is SWAP that uts the freq into use, and clicking the encoder center switches the state to control NAV1 radio in the same way, with SWAP button actin on that pair of frequencies. By flipping the bank switch I get to tune COM2/NAV2 radios in the same way. And that’s just one encoder!

Bottom left encoder: outer ring controls GPS zoom, iner ring control the transponder by using its click as a register change: locked/1st digit/2nd/3rd/4rth/lock. In short, I would run out of my memory trying to remember where everything is, then out of options with those boxes and panels… Total cost in parts and plastic is maybe around $70 at the most, for all described gizmos together…

I’m not keen to model FMC etc., because VR controller support is coming in SU7 and those would be much easier control with that in VR. But fine adjustments of AP/Radios and other encoders would probablyfeel better with real encoders still, and my goal is to keep hands free of VR controller on all critical parts of the flight.

I also have DIY panel based on Leo Bodnars 64-input card. However, the MIDI panels are easily available, cheap, and doesn’t require any DIY work.

Or you can just use VoiceAttack voice recognition software and order your copilot to twiddle the knobs.

Except somehow Cortana answered me on my last flight and didn’t know what lower flaps meant.

Hey guys,

Just jumping in here as I just ordered the Behringer device and I’m still considering something like the LaunchPad mini. Apart from the obvious issue with the orientation on that thing while not seeing anything, what about this device as an alternative?

It has buttons on both sides which would help with the orientation for the LSK, of course. Did anybody here have a look at this one, yet?

Exactly what was discussed above:

Still searching for feedback on this. And in any case my main gripe is how to label those keys efficiently.

There is the manual at the vendor site, at first glance the left hand buttons handle the configuration of the rotary encoders, but maybe they are also sending MIDI commands.

Sure, I’m just mentiong the alternative. It takes time to build these, you you’d have to like doing that kind of thing. But it’s extremely cheap and you can build things that easier to use in a tactile way.

That’s actually a very good observation—I guess I’ll write a message to the manufacturer and ask if the vertical buttones on the left and the right do indeed send midi commands or not.

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